Phillosophically Speaking

Phill Courtney

Amid so much bad news lately — the raging fires, floods, heatwaves and all those anti-maskers — it was a relief to have some good news for my August column: Redlands finally has another recycling center for our redeemable bottles, both plastic and glass and aluminum cans.

Millenia is now up and running seven days a week at the corner of Lugonia Avenue and Church Street and happily my last visit on a Saturday morning took just 15 minutes as opposed to 45 minutes at the previous place.

Of course, we’ve always had the non-compensated option of those curbside blue bins for redeemables and other stuff as well, but, when I shared the news about Millenia with some environmentally concerned Redlanders recently, although glad to hear it, they had a question I’ve heard many times before: hadn’t municipal recycling collapsed and weren’t those bins just going straight to a landfill? I promised to check it out.

When it comes to the scoop on garbage, my “go-to guy” is City Councilman Eddie Tejeda, and he gave me the good news: CR&R Environmental Services in Perris, where Redlands now sends its waste, states that some 80% to 90% of the blue bins is indeed being recycled.  

Having toured Redlands previous service for a series of articles several years ago, I wanted to also see CR&R. Although not doing tours presently, they suggested I call the Redlands city office, which I did. From there I was directed to Melanie Mendez, who’s had the impressive title of Redlands’ recycling coordinator since August 2018. Right now, Redlands is not doing facility tours either, but Melanie said she’d be happy to meet me for an interview in her office at the north end of Nevada Street.

Melanie, an enthusiastic, energetic young woman, quickly reassured me that the blue bins are being recycled. Yes, that rumor that they weren’t was true, but only for a short period in 2020. Then, with a quick flip through her records, she produced the exact dates: March 26th through May 7th during that early period of COVID chaos (as opposed to the current period of COVID chaos), which resulted in many workers out and unpredictable conditions. Melanie says that’s no longer the case.

She then explained her role in a simple sentence: “My job is to make sure that the city stays in compliance with state mandates.” Currently the state is aiming for an eventual 75 percent reduction in solid waste going to landfills, and Melanie says Redlands is on pace.

Of course, that still leaves tremendous amounts of garbage added constantly to those Aztec-like, dirt pyramids, like the ones towering nearby, that will eventually become monuments to our throwaway culture, and when I ask her roughly how much, she tells me it’s around 200 tons per day — which, at least, is well-under the current per-day capacity of 300. The big elephant in the room she says is food waste and although many municipalities are not on top of it at all, Redlands is with plans even in place for a pilot food waste drop-off program.  

Finally, I invite her to wax “Phillosophically” about what she does, and when she says she isn’t quite sure what I mean, I say: in other words—what keeps you going amid all the bad news, such as the U.N.’s dire report on global warming? Well, she tells me, she finds it’s best to just concentrate on doing what she can and what she’s currently doing.

As for all that bad news mentioned above, she also has a solution: she ignores it. And as for me, I’m just glad that all those blue bins aren’t going to waste.

Phill Courtney has been a Green Party candidate for Congress twice, and a high school English teacher. His email is

  • For a list of what can and cannot be placed in those blue bins, check the internet at: